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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Bible Commentary

Psalms 18

Verses 1-50

Psalms 18:1-50

THE description of the theophany (Psalms 18:7-19) and that of the psalmist’s God-won victories (Psalms 18:32-46) appear to refer to the same facts, transfigured in the former case by devout imagination and presented in the latter in their actual form. These two portions make the two central masses round which the psalm is built up. They are connected by a transitional section, of which the main theme is the power of character to determine God’s aspect to a man as exemplified in the singer’s experience; and they are preceded, and followed by an introduction and a conclusion, throbbing with gratitude and love to Jehovah, the Deliverer.

The Davidic authorship of this psalm has been admitted even by critics who are slow to recognise it. Cheyne asks, as if sure of a negative answer, "What is there in it that suggests the history of David?" ("Orig. of Psalter," p. 205). Baethgen, who "suspects" that a Davidic psalm has been "worked over" for use in public worship, may answer the question: "The following points speak for the Davidic authorship. The poet is a military commander and king, who wages successful wars, and subdues peoples whom he hitherto did not know. There is no Israelite king to whom the expressions in question in the psalm apply so closely as is the case with David." To these points may be added the allusions to earlier trials and perils, and the distinct correspondence, in a certain warmth and inwardness of personal relation to Jehovah, with the other psalms attributed to David, as well as the pregnant use of the word to flee to a refuge, applied to the soul’s flight to God, which we find here (Psalms 18:2) and in the psalms ascribed to him. If the clear notes of the psalm be the voice of personal experience, there is but one author possible-namely, David-and the glow and intensity of the whole make the personification theory singularly inadequate. It is much easier to believe that David used the word "temple" or "palace" for Jehovah’s heavenly dwelling, than that the "I" of the psalm, with his clinging sense of possession in Jehovah, his vivid remembrance of sorrows, his protestations of integrity, his wonder at his own victories, and his triumphant praise, is not a man, but a frosty personification of the nation.

The preluding invocation in Psalms 18:1-3 at once touches the highwater mark of Old Testament devotion, and is conspicuous among its noblest utterances.

Nowhere else in Scripture is the form of the word employed which is here used for "love." It has special depth and tenderness. How far into the centre this man had penetrated, who could thus isolate and unite Jehovah and himself, and could feel that they two were alone and knit together by love! The true estimate of Jehovah’s ways with a man will always lead to that resolve to love, based on the consciousness of God’s love to him. Happy they who learn that lesson by retrospect; happier still if they gather it from their sorrows while these press! Love delights in addressing the beloved and heaping tender names on its object, each made more tender and blessed by that appropriating "my." It seems more accordant with the fervent tone of the psalm to regard the reiterated designations in Psalms 18:2 as vocatives, than to take "Jehovah" and "God" as subjects and the other names as predicates. Rather the whole is one long, loving accumulation of dear names, a series of invocations, in which the restful heart murmurs to itself how rich it is and is never wearied of saying, "my delight and defence." As in Psalms 17:1-15, the name of Jehovah occurs twice, and that of God once. Each of these is expanded, as it were, by the following epithets, and the expansion becomes more extended as it advances, beginning with one member in Psalms 18:1, having three in Psalms 18:2 a-and four in Psalms 18:2 b. Leaving out the Divine names proper, there are seven in Psalms 18:2, separated into two groups by the name of God. It may be observed there is a general correspondence between the two sets, each beginning with "rock" (though the word is different in the two clauses), each having the metaphor of a fortress, and "shield and horn of salvation," roughly answering to "Deliverer." The first word for rock is more properly crag or cliff, thus suggesting inaccessibility, and the second a rock mass, thus giving the notion of firmness or solidity. The shade of difference need not be pressed, but the general idea is that of safety, or by elevation above the enemy and by reason of the unchangeable strength of Jehovah. In that lofty eyrie, a man may look down on all the armies of earth, idly active on the plain. That great Rock towers unchangeable above fleeting things. The river at its base runs past, the woods nestling at its feet bud and shed their leaves, but it stands the same. David had many a time found shelter among the hills and caves of Judah and the South land, and it may not be fancy that sees reminiscences of these experiences in his song. The beautiful figure for trust embodied in the word in Psalms 18:2 b belongs to the metaphor of the rock: It is found with singular appropriateness in Psalms 57:1-11, which the title ascribes to David "in the cave," the sides of which bent above him and sheltered him, like a great pair of wings, and possibly suggested the image, "In the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge." The difference between "fortress" and "high tower" is slight, but the former gives more prominence to the idea of strength, and the latter to that of elevation, both concurring in the same thought as was expressed by "rock," but with the additional suggestion of Jehovah as the home of the soul. Safety, then, comes through communion. Abiding in God is seclusion from danger. "Deliverer" stands last in the first set, saying in plain words what the preceding had put in figures. "My shield and the horn of my salvation" come in the centre of the second set, in obedience to the law of variety in reiteration which the poet’s artistic instincts impose. They shift the figure to that of a warrior in actual conflict. The others picture a fugitive from enemies, these a fighter. The shield is a defensive weapon; horns are offensive ones, and the combination suggests that in conflict we are safe by the interposition of God’s covering power, and are armed by the same power for striking at the foe. That power ensures salvation whether in the narrower or wider sense. Thus Jehovah is all the armour and all the refuge of His servant. To trust Him is to have His protection cast around and His power infused for conflict and victory. The end of all life’s experience is to reveal Him in these characters, and they have rightly learned its lessons whose song of retrospect begins with "I will love Thee, Jehovah," and pours out at His feet all happy names expressive of His sufficiency and of the singer’s rest in possessing Him. Psalms 18:3 is not a resolution for the future-"I will call; so shall I be saved"-but the summing up of experience in a great truth: "I call, and I am saved." It unfolds the meaning of the previous names of God, and strikes the keynote for the magnificent sequel.

The superb idealisation of past deliverances under the figure of a theophany is prepared for by a retrospect of dangers, which still palpitates with the memory of former fears. "A sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things," and a joy’s crown of joy is remembering past perils. No better description of David’s early life could have been given than that contained in the two vivid figures of Psalms 18:4-5. If we adopt the more congruous reading of the other recension of the psalm in 2 Samuel 22:1-51, we have in both members of Psalms 18:4 a parallel metaphor. Instead of "sorrows" or "cords" (both of which renderings are possible for the text of the psalm here), it reads "breakers," corresponding with "floods" in the second clause. "Destruction" is better than ungodly men as the rendering of the unusual word "Belial." Thus the psalmist pictures himself as standing on a diminishing bit of solid ground, round which a rising flood runs strong, breaking on its crumbling narrowness. Islanded thus, he is all but lost. With swift transition he casts the picture of his distress into another metaphor. Now he is a hunted creature, surrounded and confronted by cords and snares. Sheol and Death have marked him for their prey, and are drawing their nets round him. What is left for him? One thing only. He has a voice, and he has a God. In his despair one piercing cry breaks from him; and, wonder of wonders, that thin shoot of prayer rises right into the heavenly palace temple and the ears of God. The repetition of "I called upon the Lord" connects this with Psalms 18:3 as the experience on which the generalisation there is based. His extremity of peril had not paralysed the psalmist’s grasp of God as still "my God," and his confidence is vindicated. There is an eloquent contrast between the insignificance of the cause and the stupendous grandeur of the effect: one poor man’s shrill cry and a shaking earth and all the dread pomp attending an interposing God. A cupful of water poured into a hydraulic ram sets in motion power that lifts tons; the prayer of faith brings the dread magnificence of Jehovah into the field. The reading of 2 Samuel is preferable in the last clause of Psalms 18:6, omitting the superfluous "before Him."

The phenomena of a thunderstorm are the substratum of the grand description of Jehovah’s delivering self-manifestation. The garb is lofty poetry; but a definite fact lies beneath, namely some deliverance in which the psalmist saw Jehovah’s coming in storm and lightning flash to destroy, and therefore to save. Faith sees more truly because more deeply than sense. What would have appeared to an ordinary looker on as merely a remarkable escape was to its subject the manifestation of a present God. Which eye sees the "things that are,"-that which is cognisant only of a concatenation of events, or that which discerns a Person directing these? The cry of this hunted man has for first effect the kindling of the Divine "wrath," which is represented as flaming into action in the tremendous imagery of Psalms 18:7-8. The description of the storm in which God comes to help the suppliant does not begin with these verses, as is commonly understood. The Divine power is not in motion yet, but is, as it were, gathering itself up for action. The complaining prayer is boldly treated as bringing to God’s knowledge His servant’s straits, and the knowledge as moving Him to wrath towards the enemies of one who takes shelter beneath His wings. "What have I here that my"-servant is thus bestead? saith the Lord. The poet can venture to paint a picture with the pen, which the painter dare not attempt with the pencil. The anger of Jehovah is described in words of singular daring, as rising like smoke from His nostrils and pouring in fire from His lips, from which blazing brands issue. No wonder that the earth reels even to the roots of the mountains, as unable to endure that wrath! The frank anthropomorphism of the picture, of which the features are taken from the hard breathing of an angry man or animal, {compare Job’s crocodile in Job 41:10-13} and the underlying conception are equally offensive to many; but as for the former, the more "gross" the humanising of the picture, the less likely is it to be mistaken for prose fact, and the more easy to apprehend as symbol: and as for the latter, the New Testament endorses the conception of the "wrath of God," and bids us take heed lest, if we cast it away, we maim his love. This same psalm hymns Jehovah’s "gentleness"; and the more deeply His love is apprehended, the more surely will His wrath be discerned as its necessary accompaniment. The dark orb and its radiant sister move round a common centre.

Thus kindled, God’s wrath flashes into action, as is wonderfully painted in that great storm piece in Psalms 18:9-15. The stages of a violent thunder tempest are painted with unsurpassable force and brevity.

First we see the low clouds: far nearer the trembling earth than the hidden blue was, and seeming to press down with leaden weight, their boding blackness is above us; but

"Whose foot shall we see emerge,

Whose from the straining topmost dark?"

Their low gathering is followed by the sudden rush of wind, which breaks the awful calm. In its "sound," the psalmist hears the winnowing of mighty wings: those of the cherub on whom, as a living chariot, Jehovah sits throned. This is called "mythology." Is it not rather a poetic personification of elemental powers, which gives emphasis to their being God’s instruments? The cherubim are in Scripture represented in varying forms and with different attributes. In Ezekiel they assume a composite form due apparently to Babylonian influences; but here there is no trace of that, and the absence of such strongly supports a pre-exilic date.

Blacker grows the gloom, in which awed hearts are conscious of a present Deity shrouded behind the livid folds of the thunderclouds, as in a tent. Down rushes the rain; the darkness is "a darkness of waters," and also "thick clouds of the skies," or "cloud masses," a mingled chaos of rain and cloud. Then lightning tears a way through the blackness, and the language becomes abrupt, like the flash. In Psalms 18:12-13 the fury of the storm rages. Blinding brightness and deafening thunder-claps gleam and rattle through the broken words. Probably Psalms 18:12 should be rendered, "From the brightness before Him there came through His clouds hail and brands of fire." Hidden in the cloudy tent is the light of Jehovah’s presence, sparkles from which, flung forth by Him, pierce the solid gloom; and men call them lightnings. Then thunder rolls, the voice of the Most High. The repetition in Psalms 18:13 of "hail and brands of fire" gives much abrupt force and one is unwilling to part with it. The reason for omitting it from the text is the want of grammatical connection, but that is rather a reason for retaining it, as the isolated clause breaks in on the continuity of the sentence, just as the flash shoots suddenly out of the cloud. These lightnings are God’s arrows; and, as they are showered down in flights, the psalmist’s enemies, unnamed since Psalms 18:3, scatter in panic. The ideal character of the whole representation is plain from the last element in it-the description in Psalms 18:15 of laying bare the sea’s depths, as the waters were parted at the Exodus. That voice and the fierce blast from these fire-breathing nostrils have dried the streams, and the oozy bed is seen. God’s "rebuke" has power to produce physical changes. The earthquake at the beginning and the empty ocean bed at the end are both somewhat outside the picture of the storm, and complete the representation of all nature as moved by the theophany.

Then comes the purpose of all the dread magnificence, strangely small except to the psalmist. Heaven and earth have been shaken, and lightnings set leaping through the sky, for nothing greater than to drag one half-drowned man from the floods. But the result of the theophany is small only in the same fashion as its cause was small. This same poor man cried, and the cry set Jehovah’s activity in motion. The deliverance of a single soul may seem a small thing, but if the single soul has prayed it is no longer small, for God’s good name is involved. A nation is disgraced if its meanest subject is left to die in the hands of foreign enemies, and blood and treasure are not wasted if poured out lavishly for his rescue. God cannot let a suppliant who has taken shelter in His tent be dragged thence. Therefore there is no disproportion between the theophany and the individual deliverance which is its sole result.

The psalmist lays aside the figure in Psalms 18:17-18, and comes to the bare fact of his deliverance from enemies, and perhaps from one especially, formidable ("my enemy," Psalms 18:17). The prose of the whole would have been that he was in great danger and without means of averting it, but had a hair-breadth escape. But the outside of a fact is not all of it; and in this mystical life of ours poetry gets nearer the heart of things than does prose, and religion nearer than either. It is no miracle, in the narrow meaning of that word, which the psalmist sings; but his eye has seen the unseen force which moves all visible events. We may see the same apocalypse of a present Jehovah, if our eyes are purged, and our hearts pure. It is always true that the cry of a trustful soul pierces heaven and moves God; it is always true that He comes to His servant sinking and crying, "Lord, save me; I perish." The scene on the Galilean lake when Christ’s strong grasp held Peter up, because his fear struck out a spark of faith, though his faith was darkened with fear, is ever being repeated.

The note slightly touched at the close of the description of the deliverance dominates the second part of the psalm (Psalms 18:20-31), of which the main theme is the correspondence of God’s dealings with character, as illustrated in the singer’s experience, and thence generalised into a law of the Divine administration. It begins with startling protestations of innocence. These are rounded into a whole by the repetition, at the beginning and end, of the same statement that God dealt with the psalmist according to his righteousness and clean-handedness. If the author is David, this voice of a good conscience must have been uttered before his great fall, after which he could, indeed, sing of forgiveness and restoring grace, but never again of integrity. Unlike as the tone of these verses is to that deeper consciousness of sin which is not the least of Christ’s gifts, the truth which they embody is as much a part of the Christian as of the earlier revelation. True, penitence must now mingle with conscious rectitude more abundantly than it does in this psalm; but it is still and forever true that God deals with His servants according to their righteousness. Cherished sin separates from Him, and forces His love to leave cries for help many times unanswered, in order that, filled with the fruit of their doings, His people may have a wholesome fear of again straying from the narrow way. Unless a Christian can say, "I keep myself from mine iniquity," he has no right to look for the sunshine of God’s face to gladden his eyes, nor for the strength of God’s hand to pluck his feet from the net. In noble and daring words, the psalmist proclaims as a law of God’s dealings his own experience generalised (Psalms 18:25-27). It is a bold reversal of the ordinary point of view to regard man as taking the initiative and God as following his lead. And yet is not life full of solemn facts confirmatory of the truth that God is to a man what the man is to God? That is so both subjectively and objectively. Subjectively, our conceptions of God vary with our moral nature, and objectively the dealings of God are moulded according to that nature. There is such a thing as colour blindness in regard to the Divine character, whereby some men cannot see the green of faithful love or the red of wrath, but each beholds that in God which his vision fits him to see; and the many-sided dealings of God are different in their incidence upon different characters, so that the same heat melts wax and hardens clay; and further the actual dealings are accurately adapted to the state of their objects, so that each gets what he needs most: the loving heart, sweet love tokens from the Divine Lover; the perverse, thwartings which come from a God "contrary" to them who are contrary to Him. "The history of the world is the judgment of the world." But the first of the designations of character in Psalms 18:25 hints that before man’s initiative had been God’s: for "merciful" is the pregnant word occurring so often in the Psalter, and so impossible to translate by any one word. It means, as we have already had occasion to point out, one who is the subject of the Divine lovingkindness, and who therefore loves God in return. Here it seems rather to be taken in the sense of loving than of beloved. He who exercises this lovingkindness, whether towards God or man, shall find in God One who exercises it to him. But the word itself regards man’s lovingkindness towards God as being the echo of God’s, and so the very first step in determining the mutual relations is God’s, and but for it there would never have been that in man which God could answer by showing Himself as loving. The contrasted dealings and characters are summed up in the familiar antithesis of Psalms 18:27. The "afflicted" or humble are the type of God-pleasing character, since humility, such as befits dependent creatures, is the mother of all goodness, and "high looks" the master sin, and the whole drift of Providence is to lift the lowly and abase the proud.

The psalmist’s swift thought vibrates throughout this part of the song between his own experience and the general truths exemplified in it. He is too full of his own deliverance to be long silent about it, and, on the other hand, is continually reminded by it of the wide sweep of the beneficent laws which have been so fruitful of good to him. The most precious result of individual mercy is the vision obtained through it of the universal Lover of souls. "My God" will be widened into "our God," and "our God" will rest upon "my God," if either is spoken from the heart’s depths. So in Psalms 18:27-29 the personal element comes again to the front. The individualising name "My God" occurs in each verse, and the deliverance underlying the theophany is described in terms which prepare for the fuller celebration of victory in the last part of the psalm. God lights the psalmist’s lamp, by which is meant not the continuance of his family (as the expression elsewhere means), but the preservation of his own life, with the added idea, especially in Psalms 18:28 b, of prosperity. Psalms 18:29 tells how the lamp was kept alight, namely by the singer’s victory in actual battle, in which his swift rush had overtaken the enemy, and his agile limbs had scaled their walls. The parallelism of the clauses is made more complete by the emendation adopted by Lagarde, Cheyne, Baethgert, etc., who read Psalms 18:29 a, -" I [can] break down a fence," but this is unnecessary. The same combination of running and climbing occurs in Joel 2:7, and the two clauses of Psalms 18:33 seem to repeat those of Psalms 18:29. The swift, agile warrior, then, traces these physical powers to God, as he does more at large in later verses.

Once more, the song passes, in Psalms 18:30, to the wider truths taught by the personal deliverance. "Our God" takes the place of "my God"; and "all who take refuge in Him" are discerned as gathering, a shadowy crowd, round the solitary psalmist, and as sharing in his blessings. The large truths of these verses are the precious fruit of distress and deliverance. Both have cleared the singer’s eyes to see, and tuned his lips to sing, a God whose doings are without a flaw whose word is like pure gold without alloy or falsehood, whose ample protection shields all who flee to its shelter, who alone is God, the fountain of strength, who stands firm forever, the inexpugnable defence and dwelling place of men. This burst of pure adoration echoes the tones of the glorious beginning of the psalm. Happy they who, as the result of life’s experience, solve "the riddle of this painful earth," with these firm and jubilant convictions as the very foundation of their being.

The remainder of the psalm (Psalms 18:32-50) describes the victorious campaign of the psalmist and the establishment of his kingdom. There is difficulty in determining the tenses of the verbs in some verses, and interpreters vary between pasts and futures. The inclination of the greater number of recent commentators is to carry the historical retrospect uninterruptedly through the whole context, which, as Hupfeld acknowledges, "allerdings das bequemste ist," and those who suppose occasional futures interspersed (as the R.V. and Hupfeld) differ in the places of their introduction. "Everything here is retrospective," says Delitzsch, and certainly that view is simplest: and gives unity to the whole. The name of God is never mentioned in the entire section, except as vainly invoked by the flying foe. Not till the closing doxologies does it appear again, with the frequency which marks the middle part of the psalm. A similar sparse use of it characterises the description of the theophany. In both cases there is a peculiar force given by the stream of verbs without expressed nominatives. The hurrying clauses here vividly reproduce the haste of battle, and each falls like the blow of a battle mace wielded by a strong arm. The equipment of the king for the fight (Psalms 18:32-36). the fierce assault, flight of the foe and their utter annihilation (Psalms 18:37-42), the extension by conquest of the singer’s kingdom (Psalms 18:43-44), successively pass before us as we listen to the panting words with the heat of battle in them; and all rises at last into exuberant praise, which re-echoes some strains of the introductory burst of thanksgiving.

Many mythologies have told how the gods arm their champions, but the psalmist reaches a loftier height than these. He ventures to think of God as doing the humble office of bracing on his girdle, but the girdle is itself strength. God, whose own "way is perfect" (Psalms 18:30) makes His servant’s "way" in some measure like His own; and though, no doubt, the figure must be interpreted in a manner congruous with its context, as chiefly implying "perfection" in regard to the purpose in hand-namely, warfare - we need not miss the deeper truth that God’s soldiers are fitted for conflict by their "ways" being conformed to God’s. This man’s "strength was as the strength of ten, because his heart was pure." Strength and swiftness are the two characteristics of antique heroes, and God’s gift bestowed both on the psalmist. Light of foot as a deer and able to climb to the robber forts perched on crags, as a chamois would, his hands deft, and his muscular arms strong to bend the bow which others could not use, he is the ideal of a warrior of old; and all these natural powers he again ascribes to God’s gift. A goddess gave Achilles his wondrous shield, but what was it to that which God binds upon this warrior’s arm? As his girdle was strength, and not merely a means of strength, his shield is salvation, and not merely a means of safety. The fact that God purposes to save and does act for saving is the defence against all dangers and enemies. It is the same deep truth as the prophet expresses by making "salvation" the walls and bulwarks of the strong city where the righteous nation dwells in peace. God does not thus arm His servant and then send him out alone to fight as he can, but "Thy right hand holds me up." What assailant can beat him down, if that hand is under his armpit to support him? The beautiful rendering of the A.V., "Thy gentleness," scarcely conveys the meaning, and weakens the antithesis with the psalmist’s "greatness," which is brought out by translating "Thy lowliness," or even more boldly "Thy humility." There is that in God which answers to the peculiarly human virtue of lowliness; and unless there were, man would remain small and unclothed with God-given strength. The devout soul thrills with wonder at God’s stooping love, which it discerns to be the foundation of all His gifts and therefore of its blessedness. This singer saw deep into the heart of God, and anticipated the great word of the one Revealer, "I am meek and lowly in heart." But God’s care for him does not merely fit him for the fight: it also orders circumstances so as to give him a free course. Having made his "feet like hinds’ feet," God then prepares paths that he should walk in them. The work is only half done when the man is endowed for service or conflict; a field for his powers must be forthcoming, and God will take care that no strength given by Him lies idle for want of a wrestling ground. Sooner or later feet find the road.

Then follow six verses (Psalms 18:37-42) full of the stir and tumult of battle. There is no necessity for the change to futures in the verbs of Psalms 18:37-38, which the R.V. adopts. The whole is a picture of past conflict, for which the psalmist had been equipped by God. It is a literal fight, the triumph of which still glows in the singer’s heart and flames in his vivid words. We see him in swift pursuit, pressing hard on the enemy, crushing them with his fierce onset, trampling them under foot. They break and flee, shrieking out prayers, which the pursuer has a stern joy in knowing to be fruitless. His blows fall like those of a great pestle, and crush the fleeing wretches, who are scattered by his irresistible charge, like dust whirled by the storm. The last clause of the picture of the routed foe is better given by the various reading in 2 Samuel, which requires only a very slight alteration in one letter: "I did stamp them as the mire of the streets." Such delight in the enemy’s despair and destruction, such gratification at hearing their vain cries to Jehovah, are far away from Christian sentiments; and the gulf is not wholly bridged by the consideration that the psalmist felt himself to be God’s anointed, and enmity to him to be treason against God. Most natural as his feelings were, perfectly consistent with the level of religion proper to the then stage of revelation, capable of being purified into that triumph in the victory of good and ruin of evil without which there is no vigorous sympathy with Christ’s battle, and kindling as they do by their splendid energy and condensed rapidity an answering glow in even readers so far away from their scene as we are, they are still of "another spirit" from that which Christ has breathed into the Church, and nothing but confusion and mischief can come of slurring over the difference. The light of battle which blazes in them is not the fire which Jesus longed to kindle upon earth.

Thus far the enemies seem to have been native foes rebelling against God’s anointed or, if the reference to the Sauline persecution is held by. seeking to prevent his reaching his throne. But, in the concluding verses of this part (Psalms 18:43-45), a transition is made to victory over "strangers," i.e. foreign nations. "The strivings of the people" seems to point back to the war described already, while "Thou hast made me the head of the nations" refers to external conquests. In 2 Samuel the reading is "my people," which would bring out the domestic reference more strongly; but the suffix for "my" may be a defective form of writing the plural; if so, the peoples in Psalms 18:43 a are the "nations" of Psalms 18:43 b. In any case the royal singer celebrates the extension of his dominion. The tenses in Psalms 18:44-45, which the R.V. again gives as futures (as does Hupfeld), are better regarded, like all the others, as pasts. The wider dominion is not inconsistent with Davidic origin, as his conquests were extended beyond the territory of Israel. The picture of the hasty surrender of the enemy at the very sound of the conqueror’s name is graphic. "They lied unto me," as the words in Psalms 18:44 b are literally, gives forcibly the feigned submission covering bitter hate. "They fade away," as if withered by the simoom, the hot blast of the psalmist’s conquering power. "They come trembling [or, as 2 Samuel reads, come limping] from their strongholds."

Psalms 18:46-50 make a noble close to a noble hymn, in which the singer’s strong wins never flags nor the rush of thought and feeling slackens. Even more absolutely than in the rest of the psalm every victory is ascribed to Jehovah. He alone acts; the psalmist is simply the recipient. To have learned by life’s struggles and deliverances that Jehovah is a living God and "my Rock" is to have gathered life’s best fruit. A morning of tempest has cleared into sunny calm, as it always will, if tempest drives to God. He who cries to Jehovah when the floods of destruction make him afraid will in due time have to set to his seal that Jehovah liveth. If we begin with "The Lord is my Rock," we shall end with "Blessed be my Rock." Thankfulness does not weary of reiterating acknowledgments; and so the psalmist gathers up once more the main points of the psalm in these closing strains and lays all his mass of blessings at the feet of the Giver. His deliverance from his domestic foes and his conquests over external enemies are wholly God’s work, and therefore supply both impulse and material for praises which shall sound out beyond the limits of Israel. The vow to give thanks among the nations has been thought fatal to the Davidic origin of the psalm. Seeing, however, that some foreign peoples were conquered by him, there was opportunity for its fulfilment. His function to make known the name of Jehovah was the reason for his victories. David had learned the purpose of his elevation, and recognised in an extended kingdom a wider audience for his song. Therefore Paul penetrates to the heart of the psalm when he quotes Psalms 18:49 in Romans 15:9 as a proof that the evangelising of the Gentiles was an Old Testament hope. The plain lesson from the psalmist’s vow is that God’s mercies bind and if felt aright will joyfully impel, the receiver to spread His name as far as his voice can reach. Love is sometimes silent, but gratitude must speak. The most unmusical voice is tuned to melody by thankfulness, and they need never want a theme who can tell what the Lord has done for their soul.

The last verse of the psalm is sometimes regarded as a liturgical addition, and the mention of David gratuitously supposed to be adverse to his authorship, but there is nothing unnatural in a king’s mentioning himself in such a connection nor in the reference to his dynasty, which is evidently based upon the promise of perpetual dominion given through Nathan. The Christian reader knows how much more wonderful than the singer knew was the mercy granted to the king in that great promise, fulfilled in the Son of David, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and who bears God’s name to all the nations.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 18". "The Expositor's Bible Commentary".